Update on Australia-EU FTA/Geographical
In mid-2018, Australia and the European Union (EU) commenced negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
For many of Australia’s agricultural industries, a FTA with the EU has the potential to open up a market for Australian goods and services of half a billion people and with GDP of US$17.3 trillion.
However, for Australia’s dairy industry, there is concern that a FTA may present a challenge as the EU is seeking to protect a number of food names, known as Geographical Indications (GIs).
For the purpose of these FTA negotiations, GIs can be defined as food products whose name incorporates a specific place name or, in some cases, words associated with a particular place in order to identify that the product:
- comes from a specific place of origin, or
- possesses a specific quality, reputation or other characteristic that is deemed to be attributable to its geographic origin.
The EU has registered a wide range of products as GIs in its meat, dairy and wine sectors (including over 260 cheeses). It regulates the domestic production and sale of these products within Europe. This is best illustrated with an example from the wine industry, where champagne and burgundy are both now protected GIs. this means that Australian wine producers are not able to call wines by these names.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has established rules that govern the international trade in GI products under the Trade Related Aspects of International Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. As a TRIPs signatory, Australia recognises and accepts the EU’s system of GI registration.
The EU has traditionally stated that the core aim of its GI system is to support consumer demand for quality foodstuffs in its domestic market and to give EU consumers clear and succinct information on the origins of any foods that they purchase. But, over recent decades, it has worked continuously in both multilateral and bilateral forums to increase the level of protection afforded to registered EU GI products (especially dairy).
The EU’s approach in recent trade negotiations with other countries suggests strongly that one of its clear objectives for any FTA with Australia will be to extend the protocols and protections for GIs.The EU has publicly stated its interest in protecting a number of GIs in their FTA with Australia.
The Australian dairy industry, in conjunction with government and like-minded international industries, has long worked to protect Australian commercial interests in the trade in GIs.
However, in FTA negotiations with the EU, GI protection for dairy products will be a central feature of the debate.
Reflecting Australia’s migration history, a considerable element of the local dairy industry has strong historical links with Europe and many firms produce “traditionally European” products for local and export sale. These firms are located across all states of Australia. Including broad GI protections in any FTA could have significant implications for these local dairy manufacturers, their farm milk suppliers and the broader local communities in which they operate.
This is because a GI deal could:
- Impact on the name of dairy goods produced in Australia
- Impact on the packaging and labels used for products in Australia that may evoke an image of a particular EU GI product in the mind of consumers eg. flags, colours or images.
The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) has been vocal in its opposition to a strict GI regime.
Dairy Australia is currently assessing Australia’s cheese production to determine the potential implications of such an agreement manufacturers.